September 12, 2004
Seemann says Regula behind new OT rules
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON — Democrat Jeff Seemann, who is challenging Ohio Rep. Ralph Regula in the November election, charged this week that Regula played a key role in allowing President Bush’s new overtime pay rules to take effect — a role Regula denies.
“Meet the Man Responsible for the New Overtime Rules: Ralph Regula,” said a news release Seemann issued Tuesday. “Ralph Regula’s strong-arm tactics forced (the) regulation into law.”
Seemann, a Canton peace activist, opposes the rules, as do many other Democrats and some Republicans. Critics say the regulations will eliminate overtime for millions of Americans. The rules took effect Monday.
Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, and others who support the rules contend they will reduce litigation and make more than 1 million additional workers eligible for overtime.
In his attack, Seemann argues that Regula used his influential position as chairman of an appropriations subcommittee to pressure other lawmakers into voting for a bill that provided funding to implement the rules.
“He began to basically intimidate other members into voting for this bill, and it appears to me that the old Ralph Regula of four years ago and beyond would not have voted for these overtime changes,” Seemann said. “But ever since he started going after the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, he began to side more with the Bush administration and follow the leadership’s wishes.”
Regula denied playing any special role in defending the rules, although he opposed attempts to block them.
“He’s giving me credit for a lot more power than I have,” Regula said. “I simply pointed out what the facts were as far as the changes being proposed. I’m one vote, like everybody else.”
Regula has supported the overhaul of the rules since its issuance last year.
“It’s been 50 years since they’ve done anything about setting standards for overtime,” he said, adding that the rules would make more low-income earners eligible for overtime.
Seemann contends more workers will lose overtime than will gain access to it.
“I believe that over 6 million people will be affected by it,” he said. “Their job positions will be made into management positions without any raise, and therefore there no longer is eligibility for overtime,” he said.
Opponents sought to block the rules through amendments to a $143 billion spending measure produced by Regula’s subcommittee last year.
Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., attempted to amend the bill on July 10, 2003. His effort failed in the House by a narrow 213-210 vote.
Later in the year, on Oct. 2, the House voted 221-203 to instruct its leadership to accept a Senate-passed prohibition on the overtime rules. Regula, still supporting the president’s plan, voted against the instructions.
The instructions were non-binding, and congressional negotiators ignored them when they crafted a final version of the spending bill last year.
Regula was among those congressional negotiators, but there is no apparent evidence he became personally involved in the overtime issue.
“Nobody remembers any of Regula’s actions directly dealing with overtime regulation,” said a Democratic source on the Appropriations Committee, who spoke on background.
Obey has vowed to try to block the overtime rules again when Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day.
Meanwhile, Seemann slammed Regula for denying Democratic lawmakers who voted against his subcommittee’s spending bill last year the opportunity to put local spending projects in the bill.
“He had a choice between representing the interests of his district and every other American citizen or his own career self-interests, and he chose his career self-interests,” Seemann said.
Regula defended his actions.
“It was hard for them (Democrats who voted against the bill) to want earmarks when they voted against the money to do it,” he said. “The money to do earmarks was in the bill, so they voted against the bill.”